Alezane's Diary Archive April 2007
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The day to day life of an ex-racehorse and her companions in Dartmoor UK and Mayenne France
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Last month' missing two days
Please look at he March 2007 archive.

A new dawnSunday 1st April 2007 
“’Ello. I made it. But I got the day wrong, didn’t I? Silly old Tregony. No wonder they call it April Fool’s Day. There I was, all ready to greet my old mates and I waited and waited and all I got to see was THEM and the cat Tom that THEY had brought along to have a look at the place. Of course, THEY couldn’t see me. Only other horses (and certain other special animals) can do that. Tom knew I was there. But he couldn’t tell them. He called out hello and we had a little chat. Oh dear, I just made a joke, didn’t I? You see, I’ve been studying a bit of this French lark and ‘chat’ is their word for cat, aint it? So it was like saying the cat and I had a little cat, see what I mean?
Anyway, Tom told me that my mates are due to turn up tomorrow. THEY have arranged for some riding instructor to pick them up and drive them in his van and trailer. The trouble is, THEY don’t know what time as the chap is a bit vague and THEY cant understand all he says to them.
I guess I’ll just hang around here and have a bit of a nose around until they come. When you are a spirit, it doesn’t matter how long things take or how long you have to wait. In eternity, there isn’t any time you see. That’s probably why I got the day wrong. In fact, I’ll probably just hang around in the background even when they get here until they get over the excitement of the newness of the place. Then, when they have settled in, or if any of them think of me and wonder where I am, I’ll just pop out and say something like ‘Ere, Wick?’ and then we can be all mates together again.”


Cat Flap goes missingMonday 2nd April 2007
Moving day. Obviously THEY didn’t sleep very well with all sorts of things to do wising round in THEIR heads. WE horses were not aware of any precise details but we did sense that something was afoot.
THEY got up very early and started to clean up the cottage that THEY were leaving. However, this had to be left halfway as it was time to feed us and then go over to our new home to take almost the last of our stuff and to await the delivery of our big water drinker. They dropped off the stuff and waited and waited but the drinker didn’t arrive so THEY set off back to the cottage for another spell of house cleaning.
Half way home, SHE got a call on her mobile phone saying that Xavier, Sophie’s riding instructor, who was going to move us to the new place, wanted someone at his riding school at midday, to show him the way to the farm to pick us up.
This meant leaving the cleaning yet again. HE said that HE would go back in the evening to finish it as the owner was coming from England that day and would want to sleep there. HE set off to pick up Xavier and she came along to get us all ready. Sophie had to go and get Arnie and, of course, we followed and then SHE got us ready in travelling rugs and leggings.
When Arnie saw that we were being taken away he started to yell. This made our loading into the vans, Me and Wick in the front one and Mims in the trailer behind, rather fraught. But with the help of James and Jo, Xavier, Sophie and HER, we eventually got loaded and away. When we eventually arrived there (fortunately only a short 13 kilometre journey) we were all sweated up like mad. So much so that we were led out and our leggings taken off but we were left in our rugs for several hours to prevent us getting a chill.
THEY spent the rest of the afternoon and evening trying to calm down the cats and to get them to go outside. Eventually they did and did a tour of the house and garden. When it was time to come in, Cat Flap was not to be seen. After calling and calling, THEY went to bed, leaving the door open awaiting his return. That night was their most uncomfortable one since coming to France as THEY only had a sheet to cover THEM on camp beds, it was cold with the door open and Tom, the Burmese kept shouting non stop all night.

Moving inTuesday 3rd April 2007
In the morning, Cat Flap had still not returned. And HE was just getting our vegetables ready (cutting up apples and carrots to put in with our feed) when there was a knock on the door. When HE answered it, HE found a young French lady who told him that the horses (us ) were loose, that she had to go to work but her husband would tell us where we were.
THEY rushed out in a panic and drove round the lane to find Wicky and I and a large grey Percheron watching Mims and a young black stallion flirting and squealing like mad. THEY managed to get a head collar on her and then on me and then on Wick and HE started leading all three of us back home. The problem was hat the stallion and his friend wanted to come too so SHE tried to herd them off with the car. However, they knew the area and just went into someone’s garden and then out in front of HER.
The only solution was to lock us up in the barn and then go off looking for the stallion’s owner. To cut a long story short, it was a good way to get to meet the neighbours. The lady next door came out in her nightie and a lovely elderly lady invited THEM in for coffee and then said she would phone the owner.
HE then rushed out and bought some electric fencing and cut off the half of the field where we had got out. By the time this was done it was just after ten in the morning and the lorry with the furniture out of store in Devon arrived and all the boxes and furniture were unloaded into the house.
That evening, Veronica the agent and her husband Terry made a quick visit and then after they had left, HER quad bike was delivered.
A really tiring day for THEM but worst of all, Cat Flap was still missing. THEY went to bed and let Tom the cat sleep in the bed with THEM to comfort both him and THEM.

rear of house at nightWednesday 4th April 2007
A day for THEM to settle some debts. First THEY made sure that we were all here and that the electric fence was keeping us in order, as it were. THEY were, in fact, a bit worried about Wicky who seems to be missing Arnie a lot. He just stands by the fence looking over towards the house as if waiting for the trailer to turn up again
Still, there was nothing THEY could do so THEY loaded up THEIR tumble dryer which had arrived from England and took it over to Jo at La Chauniere as SHE has a new one coming here to match her new washing machine. When THEY got to Jo’s, THEY heard that Arnie had also been playing up since we left. He had been jumping fences and examining every part of every field to try and find us. Sophie had spent most of the previous day with him to quieten him and by today he was a bit better.
Then THEY settled up the final bills for electricity, water and our livery with Jo and James before heading off to find Sophie’s riding instructor Xavier, to pay him for driving us here. He was giving a riding examination and THEY saw Sophie going round in a canter before Xavier left the group and came over.
Hasving paid him, there was no more that THEY could do because it was lunch time and everything stops for lunch in France. THEY went to a favourite place ‘Celin’s Bar’ for lunch. It is good, it is friendly and it is cheap. For instance, when you have a lunch there, you go and help yourself to a carafe of wine. HE went up and there were only whole carafes so HE asked Celin for a demi. She just smiled and gave him the whole one which HE took with the intention of only using half. However, another man THEY know, the one who owns the local garden/hardware/farming shop came across and refilled THEIR glasses so it seemed a shame to waste it. Anyway, there was no point in rushing as THEY needed to go to his shop next and settle up for the electric fencing and get us some more feed.
The last thing THEY did before going home to some more unpacking was to distribute some notices about the missing Cat Flap although, with each passing day, hope is fading fast.

Wicky looks onThursday 5th April 2007
We had been fed in the morning and HE was back in the house while SHE was on HER way back, when SHE saw the black stallion, loose again, being driven past the house by his human. SHE called out to tell HIM when SHE noticed Mims, first run up and down the fence in great excitement, and then gallop to th electric fence and jump it, disappearing round the corner towards the gap in the hedge.
You might ask why HE hadn’t repaired the gap. Well, for a start, it is a very long way away, at the end of the field and THEY haven’t had time to get the ATV quad bike into operation yet, to carry the material etc. Also HE did rather assume that the electric fence would hold us until the hedge was mended. And, lastly, THEY have been rather busy of late, unpacking, putting away, buying necessary items (or, in a lot of cases, trying to buy them and not finding them).
It was pointless chasing Mims down the field and THEY guessed that she would be where THEY found all of us the other day. HE got in the car and drove off leaving HER to guard and get the rest of us into the barn. Driving round the corner, HE saw the stallion and his Percheron friend playing about in the middle of a field with a man, who looked like a farmer, standing by the gate. He stopped the car and explained to the man that Mims had got out to chase the stallion. HE found out that the man, Andre, was the ‘proprietor’ of the two horses. HE was just about to get back in the car to go in search of Mims when Andre pointed and there Mims was galloping up and down a newly growing wheat field.
HE drove a few hundred metres to the field entrance and called her but she just looked and run across the field, back the way HE had come towards the stallion. He got out and walked around the field and found Mims and the stallion. Nose top nose over a fence. She was so enraptured that HE was able to get her head collar on and start to lead her back to the field entrance. The next minute, the stallion had burst into the field and started to follow, nose to Mims’ rear. With lots of shouting and rope waving, HE managed to get back as far as Andre who chased the stallion back into its field and locked him in.
Mims was taken back to the barn and locked in and then HE had to walk all the way back to where he had left the car, still with its engine running. However, halfway back, HE met Andre’s wife (a name I don’t know how to spell yet) and she gave HIM a lift in her car. They all had a good laugh and put it down to ‘printemps et l’amour’.
That afternoon, he carried a large bale of stock fencing by hand down to the gap in he fence and mended it!

blossomFriday 6th April 2007
We notice that when THEY get up now, THEY always come along to make sure THEY can still find us in the field. It does Have the advantage that we get our breakfast early but, to tell you the truth, we are not terribly hungry these days. The grass is so plentiful that it is all we can do to eat out bucket food. Well, all except Wick, of course, who seems able to eat anything, all the time. It’s hard to believe we have been here now for four whole days and a night. But then, if you were to look at the grass around the perimeter then you would see that we have walked it quite a bit.
We are almost feeling sorry for THEM as THEY are looking quite tired now. THEY are spending part of the time unpacking stuff nd looking for places to put it and the rest of the time shopping for things that either were not here ar did not come with the furniture from Devon or just stuff that THEY feel that is needed to make life comfortable here. It’s not particularly exciting stuff either, except when THEY try to find something in a shop that THEY don’t know the French word for. For example, today THEY went to buy a compost bin. Now, if you look in the English French dictionary, you will find that the French word for compost is ‘compost’. Now, that shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? Well, first, THEY hadn’t looked at the dictionary before THEY went shopping so THEY had to try to describe the compost bin by how one uses it. After several minutes of verbal stumbling and mime THEY ended up by saying ‘you get bits of potato and other vegetables and put them in this box and out comes soil’ or something like it. The next fifteen minutes were taken up by head shaking and catalogue searching until THEY found something like a ‘silo de composteau’. THEY ordered that and then he proprietor came along who speaks some English and said ‘you don’t want o buy that, make one with four pallets end to end’.
The sad thing that THEY did today as to hand out many cards with photos and details of the missing Cat Flap. SHE doesn’t think that THEY will see him again now as SHE is sure HE would have returned, if he were still alive. However. People were very kind and have put the notice up in many shops in the village.

dawn sun risingSaturday 7th April 2007
THEY told me that when THEY were first together, things were financially a bit tight. THEIR policy, when the bills came in, was to go out and spend some more money, just to show that THEY didn’t care.
At the moment, THEY are drowning in packing cases, opened and unopened with very little floor space left to walk on. THEY have some furniture on order to put some of the kitchen stuff but there are boxes still unopened with new machines in. So, true to THEIR tradition, what do THEY do today? Right, THEY go out and buy more kitchen equipment! There are now even more boxes littering the floor space.
And, while all this is going on, what are we horses doing? Mainly standing along the fence near the house, watching THEM going back and forth. We had another sight today as the previous owner turned up with a horse box. Mims got all excited thinking that either THEY had brought her black stallion here to play with her or even that the box was to take her away to play with him at his place. Wicky got all excited because he thought that they had brought Arnie along as company for him. But I knew that it was none of these things because I could smell that the box has never been used for horses in its life.
So we watched, with varying shades of interest and disappointment, as he proceeded to load up the box with all the equipment and rubbish that he had left here and then drive off leaving the side of or barn nice and clear. HE told me that he will probably be back tomorrow as he still has a lot of furniture etc. shut up in the end of our barn. He promised to clear all his stuff by this week end so we can expect something interesting to watch again then.
Most of the rest of our day has been spent walking up and down the field. We still have a fair size patch since HE cut some off with the electric fence to keep us in. HE has promised to enlarge our area soon when the taller fence posts (you remember that Mims jumped the present ones) that HE has ordered come in.


SHE feeds Wicky(Easter) Sunday 8th April 2007
We had some visitors today. When I say ‘we’ I mean we, us horses. We were grazing in the field when a couple came walking along our road, the lady using a walking stick. When they reached us, Mims and I walked over to he fence to be sociable and they started feeding us, guess what? No, not mint sweets – grass! I mean, we just walked out of a field full of the stuff to come and talk to them. Still, they meant well I suppose. Fortunately SHE saw them and came along to talk to them as well so I hope SHE told them what is the proper thing to offer horses in a field.
I have to admit that it is twenty years ago that I was born here and my French is sort of rusty to non existent. I could tell they were French, mainly because I couldn’t understand them and I could tell that they were nice people by the tone of their voices. When SHE came along, I think SHE saw hem as an opportunity to practice her language skills. The seemed quite comfortable with ‘bon après midi’ but as HER story got more and more involved, we could see their eyes glazing over and their feet begin to fidget. I did manage to make out that the man who owns the feed shop and brought our drinker, Didier, had told them about us so they had decided to have a quiet Sunday afternoon stroll to come and see for themselves. I don’t know if the man had learned from Didier or if he is quite knowledgeable about horses but I heard him say that Mims was my daughter. Altogether a nice meeting. Shame about the mints.
We had a second ‘first’ today (if one can say such a thing). THEY decided to use us as lawnmowers or, as they say here, ‘tondeuses’. We saw them approach with our had collars and Mims started worrying that she had something wrong again. However, all three of us were put on lead ropes and taken out of our field and onto the grass in front of THEIR house. I nearly said lawn but that would be too grand a name for it, especially since the grass hasn’t been cut for goodness knows how long and is bright yellow with dandelions. (another French word dents (teeth) de lions).
So we walked about for a bit. Wick couldn’t seem to pick his head up he was so busy eating. Mims, on the other hand, found that it took her just that little bit nearer to the black stallion so just kept looking out over the fields at the front. What with me going one way and Mims another, THEY thought it was a shame that poor Wick couldn’t settle to eat so HE wnt and closed the front gates and then SHE let Wick off his lead rope so that he could graze at will. This worked fine until THEY started to move us back towards our field and, going past the open barn door, Wick dashed in and started eating from our supper buckets that HE had prepared this morning. HE rushed forward and pushed him out and then propped a stake against the door to shut it. Wicky is a petty smart Shetland though and he started to dislodge the stake.
We finally got back into our field and, as THEY walked away, we heard THEM talking about maybe having a ride soon when THEY get the house sorted out. The only thing is that THEY now wont be able to ride round the quiet roads one way as Mims’ stallion is still happily in his field!

he girls in he mistMonday 9th April 2007
THEY were exhausted when THEY went to bed last night. It certainly makes a difference, being in THEIR own bed now, HE told me, but THEY were even too tired to sleep. SHE has now managed to tune the clock alarm to an English radio station so the great temptation is, when the alarm goes off, to just lay there listening to the news. And then, it is surprising how interesting the weather forecast for Scotland can be if it means just a few more precious minutes in bed.
Still, once THEY are up, They are able to see what us horses see every morning now, the sun climbing up over the trees and mist in the hills outside THEIR front door. One minute the sky is pink, then red and the next, the house is filled with brilliant sunshine. We know then that our feed will not be long in coming because the sun gives THEM new vitality and THEY want to share the morning with us. To be honest, not that we want our breakfast much these days. We are pretty full up with grass and other plants that grow in our field.
We had a very pleasant surprise today. After THEIR lunch, HE appeared carrying more electric fence stakes. HE disappeared over the ridge at the other end of the field for a while then came back and took down three of the stakes from our existing electric fence and carried these, together with the machine and battery, away towards the end of the field again. At first I was a bit suspicious at the gap that HE had left. I went along and had a sort of sniff all around the area. Mims came and joined me and we had a silent discussion about what we should do. HE was quite surprised when Mims and I galloped up to where HE was joining the wires from the machine to the fence. We were quite excited by the fact that we had the use of the whole field again. I have to admit Mims looked wistfully over the fence to where HE has mended the gap in the hedge that she escaped from. Then we both gave a little jump for joy and galloped all the way back to the gate and our water bucket.
THEY went and bought an olive tree today. Its not here yet as THEY are waiting for the men who are building our fence to turn up with their van and then THEY will ask them to pick it up for them from the garden centre.
THEY also had a disappointment today as the neighbours with Mims stallion came calling to say that they thought they had seem Cat Flap at the town cemetery. It turned out though that it was a tabby but with a white tail so it couldn’t have been him after all. However, it was really nice of he neighbours to try and help. THEY also fond out that the grey Percheron is the mother of the black stallion. She is seven years old and is called Nougatine. The stallion’s name is Solide. And, so he is!

daybreakTuesday 10th April 2007
Shall I tell you about my new favourite game? It has come about because of two things. First the weather has been just like summer lately with all sunlight and temperatures up to 21C. It has been warm. Secondly, THEY bought us a drinker that holds hundreds of litres of water and is on an automatic filler system so that it is always full up to the top. Now, what would you like to do when the weather is very warm? Dip your head in nice cool water, that’s what. And that is my game. When it is hot you don’t feel much like moving about so what could be better than standing next to the nice full tub of cool water. Then you dip your head in and bring it out and shake your head so that the water goes all over the place. Wonderfully cool. Then do it again. And again. And again. Get the picture? That’s my game.
THEY started off working indoors. HE was putting up curtain rails and tidying HIS tools away so that the kitchen, at least, is looking a bit tidy. SHE was using her new washing machine and tumble dryer for the first time to try and get down the pile of washing that has accumulated over the months since we have been in France. Some of it has actually been washed at the laundrette but there was no way of storing it satisfactorily so it could do with a second go. In between, both of THEM were moving things around from one room to the next, making lists of the things that THEY need to do and generally keeping busy. The nice thing though is that THEY can see us in the filed and occasionally can come out and just enjoy hanging out with us.
I don’t think I told you but we had our fly masks on again yesterday. The warm weather has brought out the flies really early. You would think it was June not April. I have to say though that my Mims is not really very good at keeping her fly mask on. Yesterday she finished the day with it on top of her head like a French beret. Today she just left it discretely down on the floor next to the drinker. She tells me that she doesn’t do it deliberately. She just shakes her head to dislodge the flies from her nose and off pops her mask. Hmmm?
Oh, that’s the other thing SHE did today, SHE painted her ducks. No, not real ducks and no, SHE hasn’t gone in for art work. Let me explain. Back in England there is this mail order firm that caters to the pseudo country folk with all kinds of twee gadgets and ornaments etc. SHE saw some ducks (HE thinks they are geese) made out of some sort of oriental roots and bought three of them in different postures. Even HE had to admit that they were attractive. So, when THEY moved, the ducks were packed and arrived here last week and have been put on the terrasse (patio). The sad thing is that when THEY were driving through Alencon the other day, THEY saw some identical ducks in the window of a sort of junk/second hand shop. Even so, THEY still like THEIRS and so SHE has decided to give them a coat of protective lacquer so that they will survive the winter outdoors.
We are all settling in here rather well!

amaryllisWednesday 11th April 2007
Another busy settling in day. After THEY had fed us, THEY set about yet more box clearing or maybe I should say moving boxes from one room to another so that the room moved from looks really tidy while the room moved to …? Oh well, let’s hope THEY know what THEY are doing. THEY should have had a letter yesterday from France Telecom giving THEM their password and details so that THEY can get on ADSL broadband. The letter should have been here when we arrived but when the agent phoned last week, the lady said she had forgotten to post it and, as the Easter holiday was over the week end, the letter wouldn’t arrive until Tuesday. As I said, it wasn’t there yesterday and, when HE checked today, it still hadn’t arrived. THEY got the agent to chase France Telecom again and this time the lady said she can’t remember if she posted it or not so she will now do so and THEY should get it next week! As you can imagine, THEY are not happy, particularly as THEY have been paying for the service that THEY cant use for over a week now.
The other thing THEY did was to go and introduce themselves to the Maire of the Commune. It was a little difficult due to THEIR poor command of the language but he was a nice chap who provided them with some maps and details of the area.
After lunch, it was the turn of the geometre (surveyor) who was going to map out exactly the boundaries of the field THEY are buying behind the house. It had been decided already that THEY would not buy the whole field but leave a small strip for another couple who are renovating a small gite as a holiday cottage. However, when everyone met (the seller, the surveyor and assistant, the agent, the other buyer and HIM) HE was asked if he would mind if the other buyer could make a boundary line straight which would mean THEY would lose a small triangle of land. When HE asked if this would result in a reduction in the purchase price HE was told no, the agreed price would stay. It would appear that he seller was selling to the other buyer at so much per hectare and so would profit twice from the sale of the same piece of land. In the end, the other buyer said he would pay HIM for the extra piece although whether this left the seller still profiting twice was still unclear.
Then the agent who is organising our fence and stable building work, John, came along with another builder to check on the work required to convert the barn into three stables and a feed area. There was much to-ing and fro-ing which we horses watched with great interest. They were also interested in us as we had our fly masks on. We also heard that they now have the rest of the posts for our fence so they will start on that again next week.
Things are moving and we should be very comfortable by the summer.

Mims looks backThursday 12th April 2007
John came along this evening and delivered the olive tree that THEY bought the other day. HE had been thinking of digging the hole to plant it in but decided to wait as it wasn’t expected for a couple of weeks. I expect HE will be busy tomorrow.
There’s only a little to tell about us horses today. The weather was supposed to break and bring showers but, after a slightly cloudy start, the sun came out hotter than ever. THEY were out in the morning but as soon as THEY came home and saw us nodding and swishing with the flies, THEY came out and put our fly masks on again. Then THEY went out again and came back with this funny stick like thing which SHE attached to the hose that normally fills our drinker. The next thing I know, I was having a lovely cooling shower. OK, I was afraid of it at first because it made a sort of hissing noise just like a snake, but after HE went and got my head collar and SHE had gently waved it in my direction I got the idea and started to enjoy it. Which, sadly, is something Mims didn’t do. Even on her head collar she kept swinging round and round to avoid and eventually SHE gave up. I think THEY were tired by then because THEY didn’t even put Wick on the head collar and he just ran away every time the stick was waved at him.
THEY achieved quite a bit today. THEY certainly spent a lot of money. First THEY ordered the wardrobes that THEY had selected from a catalogue that THEY got last time THEY visited the shop. THAY had a nice surprise when THEY discovered that the salesman comes from our village and so he did a deal for THEM on the delivery. Next THEY went and selected and ordered some bookcases and a kitchen stool for HER to use when SHE is cooking. HE also found the clothes stand that THEY had been searching for. The only pity is that all these items apart from the clothes stand will not be delivered for a month. Still, at least they are ordered.
THEY also stopped at a couple of other shops and got more things from the moving in shopping list. Finally, after a lunch at Celine’s, THEY picked up he composter. As I said, a very busy day, especially that when THEY got home, HE found that a lot of the items needed assembling and, it would seem, the French don’t go in for very detailed assembly instructions!

SHE paints the ducksFriday 13th April 2007
We had visitors today. Jo, Sophie, Holly and Cameron came for their first visit to our new place. Apparently Arnie has now settled to being on his own and spends a lot of time with Sophie. However, he also tends to hide from her so that she thought she had lost him a couple of times.
Anyway, we all had a good meeting in the field. They brought some carrots and treats and Cameron tried to climb into our drinker but just managed to get one foot wet. They tied to use up some of his energy by getting him to run up and down the hill in our field but although he did it, he still had the energy to get into loads of trouble.
Because THEY knew that they were coming, THEY stopped off at the pattiserie and bought a lot of lovely pastries. But then, when they turned up, Sophie had made a  giant, yummy chocolate cake so they all sat down to that instead and they took the pastries home with them together with some clotted cream for James.
This morning, after giving us our breakfast and then having THEIR’s, THEY went off on yet another moving in stuff shopping trip. The things that THEY are buying are small seemingly unimportant things like handles for the doors so that THEY can shut them from the outside, a bathroom cabinet for the guest room, more electrical plugs, etc.  but they all go towards making the new house a comfortable home. Of course, the other thing is that once bought, the things have to be assembled and fitted which all takes time and effort and THEY are both going to bed early these days, completely exhausted.
HIS final effort, this evening was to dig a hole for the olive tree that THEY have bought. This again was harder than HE had thought as the spot where THERY decided to plant it as half buried in rocks and gravel and HE had to move along until HE found a spot that HE could dig in. The whole is now dug and tested for good drainage. If HIS back recovers by tomorrow, no doubt the tree will get planted.
I am afraid, however, that all this effort leaves HIM with no energy to type much for my diary. I am hoping that this will improve as the settling in progresses.

the ducks settle inSaturday 14th April 2007
Or black Saturday as it should b known. Not for us horses. We had a quite normal day. Pleasant enough except for the flies. I am not sure if it is always like this in this bit of France or whether the weather is exceptional and causing the heat and the flies to come along early. We are definitely having temperatures maybe ten degrees higher that one would expect in April
Back to clack Saturday. HE was in the middle of  getting more things working in the house in the morning when SHE decided to try and drive HER quad bike a bit further than just out of the sous sol (basement – for the last time). This time, SHE rode right out of the front garden and down the road as far as the junction with our other road. On the way back, SHE stopped to look for the mail and discovered that at last, France Telecom had sent the letter with the ADSL broadband password.
When SHE brought the letter in, HE was too absorbed in what HE was doing to try and install it straightaway. However, when HE did get round to it, in the afternoon, that was when black Saturday began. HE got the little portable laptop working quite quickly using a Ethernet cable but when HE tried to get it working on wireless (or sans fils, as we say here) his laptop just kept bombing out. HE decided to leave well alone and use the laptop with an Ethernet cable and then HE tried to get HER computer working on broadband.
Have you ever tried to follow bad instructions that do not agree with the paperwork provided and in a foreign language? HE tried and tried and then tried something else and then another something else and on and on and on. Finally, HE retired to bed leaving a mass of wires, connectors, adaptors and many swear words littering the floor. HE even forgot to type up my diary for today which is why we have this apology for an entry today which he has had to type up tomorrow (if you see what I mean).


Wicky's hobbySunday 15th April 2007
Today was supposed to be the day when THEY relaxed and, instead of working, THEY went out and had some fun. THEY had seen an advertisement for some tratting horse racing at Alencon and THEY decided to go, just for the fun of it. It started at twelve thirty midday but it was only some time after one in the afternoon when HE remembered. So THEY will have to save that particular pleasure for another time. This is what happened!
After last night, when HE didn’t manage to get the ADSL broadband on to HER machine, HE spent a very sleepless night thinking of all the things that could have gone wrong. By five o’clock this morning, HE couldn’t stand it any longer and got up to try out HIS latest theory. Unfortunately that didn’t work any better than HIS previous attempts and HE decided to leave it for now as THEY did, at least, have one working computer on broadband,
SHE got up earlier than usual as well, and THEY left the computer problems and had what THEY call a ‘full English breakfast’. Then, after clearing up, THEY went out shopping both for food and for some more ‘moving in’ bits. THEY are getting the hang now of who is open and who is closed when, over the week end. If you want nice fresh bread and other local food, you go on a Sunday morning as the shops ill be closed Monday. However, if you need supermarket stuff, then they are closed on Sundays but open on Mondays. There are all sorts of variations due to holidays and local customs but, slowly, THEY are getting the hang of where to go when.
In addition to food, this morning, HE also got some electrical items to help put up some cabinet in the guest bathroom and the clock in the living room. Later HE set about planting the olive tree that THEY bought last week. This might seem an easy matter if you haven’t seen the size of the tree. It is not that tall but it has a solid trunk and root ball at the base. With lots of wriggling about and levering etc. HE managed to get it down into the hole that HE had prepared.

After  all this exertion, HE decided to try out the shower in the bathroom which is rather a complicated one with many jets and sprays and things. After making sure that the temperature was ok, HE got in and experimented in making all the bits work. HE finally got them all working but sadly, HE is not at all sure that HE could repeat the performance.
After lunch, HE had a go at digging over a patch where HE wants to make the kitchen/herb garden and SHE took the quad bike out for a ride right around the field.. As you can see, THEY are both in a pretty steep learning curve at the moment and both collapse into bed early and worn out.

pissenlitMonday 16th April 2007
Sorry but it’s another diary entry mainly about THEM. We did have some activity today, at least our bit of property did. The men who are fixing our new fencing started work again today as the post they have been waiting for have finally turned up. We have been watching them putting up posts and they have been fascinated by our fly masks which do not appear to be at all common here in this part of France. Maybe we will start a new fashion.
But, back to them. HE told me this morning that it is an amazing thing, but when you are moving, the things that you throw away and do not bother to take with you are the very things that are essential in your new home. Today THEY went out to buy – a wheelbarrow (HE had two in Devon), a rake, a sieve (or riddle) –they do not seem to use them here in France if the garden shops are anything to go by, a watering can (HE had three in Devon) and secateurs (HE had four pair in Devon). The only explanation HE can come up with is that when HE first moved to Devon, HE was a keen gardener but, over the years, HIS interest turned to other things and HE thought that HE wouldn’t want to do gardening when THEY bough a place in France as it would have mainly a field for the horses and not a garden as such. However, what HE didn’t count on was that THEY would still want a kitchen garden with lots of herbs and some salad stuff etc. In fact, one of the things HE has been missing since moving to France has been Spring Onions. These seem to be unknown in France. There are many, many other varieties of onion and THEY managed to trace something called ‘ciboule’ which appeared to be what THEY were looking for. And then, the other day, looking in the most unlikely place, a sort of ‘one euro’ shop of cheap plastic stuff, etc., HE found a packet clearly labelled “Spring Onions’ of the ‘White Lisbon’ variety that HE is familiar with from the UK. HE is now eager to plant these and is busy weeding and putting to rights a bit of ground outside THEIR bedroom window that HE wants to turn into the kitchen garden.
Ps Can you have a ps before the end? THEY stopped to have a Chinese/Thais/Vietnamese meal on the way home which may have affected HIS ability in the next paragraph. The other thing of note was the delivery of HER dresser from the Brocante. Two words need  explaining. Dresser in this case is a bit of furniture in which plates , cutlery etc. are stored. Brochante is a cross between a second hand store and an antique shop. The dresser that SHE bought is pure solid oak and weight tons (or tonnes) and goes very well with the oak interior of the house.
This is yet another short diary entry but I would like to leave you with the vision of HIM putting his flat pack wheel barrow together with a set of instructions in French. It takes HIM far longer to decode the instructions with the great big dictionary that THEY have than it does to assemble the parts. Three pictures would have said it all. But that is not quite what HE said!

is it supper time yet?Tuesday 17th April 2007
How many of you have had whole buckets of cold water thrown over you? Not one bucket full but several? OK Maybe some of you have, probably when you were younger. But us horses are not used to such undignified behaviour. Actually, I personally didn’t mind that much, once I got over the surprise of it. But Wicky and even more so Mims just refused top enjoy it at all.
It was all HER idea. The weather was very hot and sunny again today. THEY went out all the morning after putting Mims and my fly masks on. When THEY got back, THEY had some lunch but then SHE got bored and decided to come out and play with us horses. When SHE got here, SHE was worried about the amount of flies that were around and I do believe SHE was impressed with the way that I immerse my whole face in the water to get rid of them. It must have been this that gave HER the idea.
Because Mims likes to play dominant and, since Arnie is no longer with us, she picks on Wicky as her sort of plaything toy to herd around as she will. Because of this, Wick has his own water bucket as Mims sort of herds him away from our big drinker. Well, SHE picked up Wicks bucket with the ideas of refilling it for him. Then, when SHE had it nice and full, the idea came to throw it all over me. That started it. Back and forth SHE went to the drinker filling the little yellow bucket and dousing my back. I was too easy a target as I just let HER do it. So then SHE turned on Mims and then the fun began. Mims just ran away but then, wanting to be included in the herd, she would come back, just until SHE raised the bucket again.
HE came over while all this was going on and HE did manage to get a few bucketfuls over Wicky who was too good a sport to run very far. I will say at least Wick and I had a nice cooling experience but Mims just couldn’t let herself get wet.
Wicky was made quite proud and happy today. He has been sulking because Mims and I have fly masks and he hasn’t. THEY reckoned that his own fringe and mane were good enough protection. However, today SHE noticed that poor Wick had a whole crowd of flies all around his eyes so SHE started a hunt of the horsey kit in the barn and sous sol to find the old fly fringes that we had in previous years. When SHE found one, it was mina and so too big for Wick but with a bit of adjustment SHE managed to fit it to his head collar and fitted that on him. Now Wick thinks that he is one of us again and has been looking happier and happier all evening.
THEY went to Le mans today to order some new furniture to fit into THEIR fitted kitchen. THEY had to go there because that is where the kitchen first came from. HE took some photos of how it is now and drew a sketch of how THEY want it. It was just as well because the assistant at the firm spoke absolutely no English but THEY were able to communicate through the pictures. In the end, THEY had three assistants helping out on the job and an artisan fitter is coming to verify everything before the order goes through. This leaves just one more major item for the house, before it is how THEY like it. This requires a joiner carpenter to come and make some cupboards and adjustments to how the rooms are laid out.
Of course the major job remaining is he building of our stable boxes inside the barn. Work has progressed today on the fence outside the house and this should be finished by the end of the week. Then it should be only a short step to us being able to walk into the barn as and when we want to. Joy to be able to get away from the flies. I expect the weather will change then!

skies over paris at dawnWednesday 18th April 2007
THEY were invited today to go along for aperitifs with neighbours, Andre and Eliane, who just happen to be the humans with Solide and Nougatine. I’m not sure if I told you but they have said that Solide is going to become a gelding any time now. Ow! Still, they are very nice people in spite of that.
This is likely to be a very short diary page as Andre makes his own pommeau, which, if I understand him is his own cider which is fortified with brandy to make a sort of Calvados but a lot more palatable.
Just as a sort of interruption, SHE has just seen bats flying outside THEIR window and has gone rushing out to watch them. If that weren’t enough, Tom the cat, has asked to go out as well. HER theory is that they come from somewhere near the satellite dish, a roost fairly near to the house. Be that as it may, the bats will continue to fly, wherever they come from and wherever they go to, and the world will still carry on.
What did we do today?: Well we ate grass and then we ate grass and then we  … Well OK, so it was not a momentous day. But we did watch while they finished the fence near our barn and then we watched while HE put up an electric fence round the bit of fence that hasn’t been finished properly yet..
An what did they do? THEY went along to get a blood test for HER, only to find that SHE had eaten and therefore THEY must go back tomorrow. Then THEY went shopping for lots of things that THEY needed to stock up THEIR stores of food. HE got some petrol to get HIS chain saw and strimmer working and then THEY went home to watch the progress on our field.
A sort of messy day but one in which THEY got more integrated into this life and started to live instead of just working at it. As I said, a short diary entry but a happy one.


daisyThursday 19th April 2007
THEY were up early to go for her blood test again. The difference this morning is that THEY felt like death. I think humans call it a hangover although what is hanging over what I really couldn’t say. THEY came home and had breakfast and then sort of staggered about trying to do some outstanding jobs. HE started by trying to put a handrail in the stairs leading down to the sous sol. However, HE hit problems. First HE discovered that the ‘wall’ on the top part was only a thin plaster board and therefore would not safely hold a handrail. After much staggering about, HE came up with the idea of fixing the wooden rail directly to the wooden doorpost at the top and then fixing the bottom on the solid wall. This worked out fine until HE tried to drill the bottom wall. In contrast to the fragile top, the bottom is solid concrete and just couldn’t be drilled to fit the rail. HE all but gave up when HE noticed that there was wood at the lower part on the other wall and so, HE achieved a not very good compromise. There is now a rail but with not enough space behind it to grip properly. But, in HIS state of health, that was all HE could achieve.
He also put some filler in the cat door where the original wood was of two varying sizes and there was a gap. This was a little better but still messy. Finally, what should have been a simple job – gluing back a wooden strip on the door glass – was the cause of yet another mess up. The glue dripped on HIS hands and when HE tried to was it off it just stuck all HIS hands together. HE had to rush down to the sous sol and was HIS hands in petrol.
In the meantime, SHE was firstly worrying about me. When SHE looked outside SHE saw that I had a great big swelling on my side. It could have been a bite, a kick, a damage by stick, rock or wire or it could have been a sting. After checking me over, SHE decided to call the vet. This caused language problems when SHE tried to describe the would and when SHE got off the phone with the receptionist saying they would ring back, a major hunt for the English/French veterinary dictionary followed.
After lunch, she checked me again and found that the swelling had gone down so SHE phoned the vets and cancelled. Then both of them just collapsed fro the afternoon, sleeping until it was time to get the blood test results. THEY both recovered in the evening and then HE was walking along admiring our new fench which was almost finished today when a car stopped and a man introduced himself as Jacques Martin, a neighbour just a bit along from Andre and Eliane. After explaining that he didn’t speak English Jacques invited THEM for aperitifs tomorrow evening! I don’t hold out much hope for a long diary entry tomorrow night.

moon setFriday 20th April 2007
Have you ever made a really silly mistake? No? HE has. THEY set out this evening to visit Jacques Martin and his wife. The only problem was that THEY didn’t know where they lived. THEY knew they were neighbours but all he had given as an address was ‘the atelier’. As far as HE was aware an atelier was a studio flat in Paris where the artists in La Boheme lived. Still, THEY set out to find where THEY had been invited to go with a sort of blind optimism. When THEY arrived in the area where THEY thought M Martin might live, THEY found only three possibilities. One was the cottage that was being renovated by some folk from Amiens, one was the house of a kind man that THEY had met on another day who let THEM reverse THEIR car in his garden to turn round and the third was the house of the nice lady who told them that we had escaped and were playing with Solide and Nougatine. So, none of them were obviously the bearded Jacque Martin.
Faced with the time moving on and THEY still hadn’t found where THEY had to go, HE had to knock on the last door and ask for directions to Jacques Martins maison. They were very nice. They were kind. But, they had never heard of Jacques Martin. HE then resorted to mime. Jacques Martin has a ‘barbe’ HE said. A very big beard. They still looked puzzled. The only man we know around here, with a beard, they said is Monsieur Chapeau. He lives just past Andre’s house. How did you say this man’s name was? Martin? Sorry. Je ne connais pas. OK, it doesn’t matter, HE said, trying to get away from the obviously ‘trying to help’ couple. I will find them or not. De rien.
The only clue HE had was this Monsieur Chapeau so THEY set out to find him. There was another clue. As well as an atelier, he man had mentioned something about ‘little dogs’. THEY arrived at the next set of houses and HE went for a wander to see if any of the letter boxes mentioned a Mr Martin. HE found one part of a long building with a white haired lady watching TV. When HE went further, HE came to a dead end but in he garden HE saw at least six little pug dog puppies and some stairs leading up to some rooms from which happy family sounds were coming.
 Well, to cut a long story short, as they say, HE found a Monsieur Jacques whose name was Chapeau but whose wife was called Martine. They had a really good evening with them at which SHE was the star, talking French very fluently and being the centre of attention. And us horses? Our fence was finished today and we spend a very pleasant evening eating the grass on the strip of land that had previously been garden to which our new fence gave us access to.
THEY had THEIR aperitifs and we had ours. Fair enough!

grass scapeSaturday 21st April 2007
We are all a bit worried about Mims’ behaviour. When we were at La Chauniere she acted normally at first. Then Arnie came along and she seemed to take against him and used to chase him and keep him out of the barn. Then we came here and left Arnie behind and she then turned her aggressive behaviour against Wicky. But now, for some strange reason, she has taken to treating Wick like her toy, very much like one sees little human girls pushing their rabbit or cat along in their toy prams, often dressed up as well. This is how Mims is behaving with Wick. She is not, of course, pushing him about in anything but she is pushing him about, guiding him with her neck. Or maybe I should say ‘trying to guide him’ as Wick is very practised in the art of moving on and then turning and going right back where he wants to be. Thinking about it, maybe Mims is going broody and Wick has become her substitute foal. Probably that session with the stallion has brought it on. We will all follow events with interest.
THEY went today to THEIR normal lunch spot, Celine’s only to find that she was booked up for a wedding. By that time however, SHE had it firmly in her head that she would not cook today so THEY drove though the village to go to the local hotel but found that there they only do lunches Tuesday to Friday. After a moment’s thought, HE remembered Veronica had mentioned having a really nice meal at the next village along, Boulay les Ifs, so as it was only a couple of kilometres away they set of and found the place, a nice little restaurant with just two locals at the bar and an empty dining room.
When the waitress came to take THEIR order, she told them that she spoke some English. It turned out that she spoke a great deal of English but with a New York accent as she had been working in a Japanese restaurant in New York where most of the staff were Spanish, another language that she spoke. THEY had quite a conversation with her, THEY trying to use French where possible and she speaking American. She said that most people there did not even know where France was and when asked if they knew any famous French people all they could come up with was Napoleon Bonaparte. However, she did find that the people were very appreciative of the fact that the French President had opposed the war in Iraq.
What has that to do with us horses? Nothing and everything really. Anything that affects THEM affects us, if THEY are tired or unhappy we have to work hard to help them through it. If THEY are happy we are treated very well. We are an integral part of THEIR lives and THEY are to us. Which brings me to my last bit of news. To give them time to enjoy THEIR retirement, THEY have engaged a local lady to do some housework for them. The interview went something like this. A tour of the house – 5 minutes, a discussion of what work would be done and hours and rates of pay – 5 minutes, a visit to meet les chevaux, admire us and join our fan club – 20 minutes. That all adds up to a very well spent half an hour for them and for Gladys (Pronounced Glad ees).

breakfastSunday 22nd April 2007
We had even more additions to our fan club today. It was another hot, sunny day and we were half grazing and half dozing in the shade at the back of the barn. Then, there was a sound I have come to know and recognise. A herd of young human fillies approached with HER bringing up the rear. Not only were these young girls, they were young French girls who had no trouble at all with my name, just recognising it as a colour. There were many shouts of Alli, Alli, Alli when SHE explained the way THEY have abbreviated my name. Of course both Mims and I wandered over and allowed all the children to pat and admire us. Then, one of the girls wanted to see the little ‘bebe’ Shetland. Of course, SHE had to explain that Wicky was far srom a baby and was much more like an old man. The girls were amazed but still admired him when he tore himself away from his mouthful of grass and came over to join us. As I said, it was a hot day and SHE told them to come back when it is cooler and some of the youngsters can have a ride on me and the older girls can maybe lead. I will enjoy that.
HE couldn’t sleep this morning. In fact HE is not sleeping much at all at the moment. There is so much to do that the different jobs keep going round in his mind. This morning HE was working on getting HER computer up on the broadband internet by a wireless connection. After exhausting all the avenues, HE had come to the conclusion that the wireless card in the computer couldn’t be functioning correctly. So, instead of laying in bed worrying, HE got up and took the wireless card out of one of the other computers to try that. And, HE was so pleased that this worked and HE had the machine up and working by the time that she got up. Later in the day, HE got HIS own big machine working, updated and on the internet. It was the first time HE had used it since before THEY came to France. That makes four of the five machines up and running and HE has ordered a new wireless network card for the last one so that should be running soon.
Why so many machines? The others are THEIR old ones that HE hates to throw away and they serve for the children and grandchildren in the guest rooms when they visit. HE has also started trying to tidy up the guest rooms as they have all the boxes and cables and bits for the computers and blank media, cameras, etc littered all over them until HE can work out a system for filing the contents of three previous areas into the one small mezzanine office that HE has now.
HE also got a ladder today which allowed HIM to see what he previous owner had left in the loft of our barn. Loads of ancient wooden furniture bits, an old typewriter, microwave, heater, sewing machine, a first aid cabinet, record player and loads of old pictures, mainly of ancient relatives it would seem. There is going to be a lot of stuff going either down the tip or to the local brocante, which is a cross between a junk shop and antique shop, HE also got a garden hose working and thought it highly amusing to give us a little shower. We soon showed HIM that HIS sense of humour was somewhat lacking and just walked out of range!

tree with skirtMonday 23rd April 2007
I’ve probably told you before about Tom, the cat, who has been allowed t sleep in THEIR bed with THEM ever since he was left on his own with PC dying and Cat Flap disappearing. Tom likes to sleep with his two front paws over an arm that is held protectively round him. He will often be left sleeping in the living room when  THEY go to bed and then, when he wakes up all alone, he shouts loudly and indignantly and comes into the bedroom, demanding to be allowed into the bed. Apparently this is not too bad, at least, not as bad as when he gets up in the night and goes outside and then re-enters the bed with feet cold and wet from the morning dew and often sandy as well. This has the effect of making the bed a rather itchy place to be.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, last night Tom just slept, very still on the outside of the bed and when THEY got up, he didn’t. By mid morning, he still hadn’t come for his breakfast and THEY started worrying about him. Regular readers of the diary will know that Tom has been ill twice since we have been in France, each time with a high temperature and breathing problems. HE didn’t want to take any chances so Tom was taken off to the vets and, guess what, found to have a very high temperature. The treatment was, as always, an injection followed by two tablets a day for five days. It has always worked before, so it will again but it is very worrying for THEM as THEY lost Toms sister with the same problem.
We horses had our own treatment today, not medical exactly but therapeutic just the same. We finally had the farrier, Pierre Dinard, come to trim our feet again. We had him once when we were at the farm but then the time when we needed his services again coincided with our move and the three week wait for him when contact was made. I am afraid to say, Mims made a bit of a bad performance for the second time with him. THEY thought it would be much better for Pierre to work on a flat surface so they took us into the barn for our pedicure. The problem was that THEY too Mims in on her own and both she and I panicked and called out to each opther as we hate being separated now. SHE went out to bring me in to calm Mims down but then Wicky was left all alone and so, of course, he called out which made both Mims and I nervous. Finally SHE went out and brought him in two and then I was happy. But, I am afraid Mims was not. Sh had, by this time , got very unsettled and so, when Pierre started on her feet she moved about and generally behaved badly.
I will say this for Pierre. He did all our feet very nicely and THEY have now agreed to get him along at eight weekly intervals so that our feet will not get too long again.

sky over Le CerisierTuesday 24th April 2007
Our little friend, Grace, from next door came to see us eat supper this evening. She brought along a little friend, a boy, whose name could very well have been Thomas but it was hard to tell with her young voice and our grasp of French. Anyway, Grace is a really exuberant girl of about four or five years, I would guess. Sha was standing at the end of the driveway when THEY brought our buckets and, on being invited in, Grace came running and hurled herself into HER arms, saying many French things at an alarming speed, or so it seemed to us. Things got better though when HE got her and her friend to give us sugar cubes and sweets. HE has found a new version of our round French mint sweets which are apple flavoured instead of mint. It ws nice to have a change and it was fun to watch Grace and her friend hand us a sweet and then, after we had taken it, wipe their hand hastily on the fence. After a while and older girl and a boy came along and it turns out that it was Grace’s sister who had come to collect her to go home. It was then that Grace showed a face that was not at all childlike and angelic.
The other main event of THEIR day was getting the official licence, the Carte Grise, for the quad bike as it came only with a fifteen day temporary one. First HE went along after some shopping to the Maire to enquire what was needed. HE was told HE must bring the sale document for the quad, proof of residence, proof of HER identity (it is her quad) and a cheque for twenty nine euros. After lunch, HE put these together and went back, only to be told that the purchase document was not the one that was needed. The lady in the Marie made a phone call to the seller who told HIM that the paper was in the saddle pocket of the quad. HE went back home and found that there was another document, not in the quad but with the insurance papers. HE must have used it to get the insurance and then forgotten about it. Back HE went to the Maire and, after the lady had checked his papers, she told him to come back in just over a week. In spite of HIS very poor language skills, the lady was very kind and helpful so just three trips to the Maire was a small price to pay.
And lastly, another builder, Wally, came along with John to finalise the requirements for converting the barn to our stables. He has given them a quote which is far higher than HE had estimated but then, THEY had changed the requirements several times. He is actually working on John’s farm at the moment but the good news is that he may be able to start in a couple of weeks time. It certainly will be good to be able to get away from the flies in the daytime and start living and grazing just at night.

wheat scapeWednesday 25th April 2007
It was very interesting today when HE came into our field and then climbed over into the part that was partitioned off by the previous owner as a vegetable garden. Of course, it has been let go to seed, quite literally. No-one has seen rhubarb flower quite so spectacularly, almost five feet tall and quite as much blossom as a fruit tree. Most of the rest of the garden has little but weeds now. There are some Brussels sprouts that have had all the sprouts picked and are also in blossom, bright yellow, all in in a line. There is a line of leeks that may or my not be edible but here and there are some things that HE wants to save. HE was talking to HER about this as THEY both find it sort of peculiar. They saw most of what they want in the new kitchen garden that HE is making outside the bedroom window, in the local garden shop today. It would have been easy and not very expensive to have bought them there but there is something about saving a living thing, even a plant SHE says and so HE was going round the old garden seeing what HE could save. Of course, We all thought we could help HIM so we all leaned over the fence to give HIM encouragement. HE took this to mean that we wanted something and so picked a handful of grass and offered it to me. Grass! We have four hectares of the stuff but HE thinks we want a mouthful from here. Mind you, Mims did take it. I think she has been taking lessons from Wicky on greed.
And that was about the extent of the excitement that we horses had today. Not that we want excitement, we can make that up for ourselves. One of our favourites is breaking into a canter for no apparent reason and then puling up in about fifty metres or so. It is even better if you can do it up a hill and maybe swinging in a curve. HE was watching us and told HER that I was teaching Mims how to do a racing start but, in fact, it was mostly Mims breaking into the canter because her hormones are telling her to.
HE spent HIS day today catching up on some little jobs that HE has been meaning to do. THEY went out shopping in the village this morning first thing. Wednesday is market day with fruit and veg, fish, dairy farm, clothes and a few other stalls together with the normal village shops being open. THEY are getting the hang of buying a fresh loaf every day and having bread at each meal. The bread is so light and tasty as long as it is eaten on the day, after which the crust hardens. SHE brought some out to us the other day but I could take it or leave it. THEY don’t eat my short feed so why should I eat THEIR’S?
After shopping, HE mended the post box, mended the hanging rail for THEIR horse clothes (the special ones that have sweets in the pockets and horse dribble on the front). Then HE built up his new kitchen garden for a while and started to rearrange the contents of the basement to start building his workshop. This involved a visit to the local dump (known as a deshetterie) and the cleaning out of the remnants of the previous owners wine cellar (cave pronounced ‘carve’). There was a half full barrel in there but when HE pulled the cork, the contents smelled more like vinegar than wine. It has now moved outside awaiting the dump. HE then finished the day with a bit more digging. It should only take one more day then HE can rescue the plants in the old garden and open the ground up for us horses.

or is it supper time?Thursday 26th April 2007
I wonder if I can help you to see where we are? Imagine you are standing at the bottom of a slight hill, looking up, on a rather narrow road with just enough space for two small cars to pass, going carefully. On your left, there is an empty field with no fencing round it, just a slight ditch between it and the road. On your right, there is a post and rail fence, following the road in a sort of an ‘S’ curve to the entrance to a house on the top of the hill. From there, the road turns sharply left and continues out of sight. If you look directly to your right, over the fence, you will see a bank of poplar trees (one hundred in all) and then a bramble hedge dividing them from a field which has all sorts of  hills leading up to the house mentioned before and, to the right of it, a large modern barn. From where you are standing, you can only see one side and the rear of the barn and, probably standing in front of the rear you will see two reddish brown horses and one grey (white) Poney (French spelling), nodding their heads and swishing their tails. That is Mims, Wicky and I.
In this hot weather, this is where we stand most of the time. At the rear of the barn is our drinking container and, while the masks keep the flies out of our eyes, we find that ducking your nose into the water helps to keep them of your face for a time. From time to time, we set of for a walk around the filed in an effort to get to the next step before the flies do. If we seem to be winning for a little while, we stop for a bite of grass.
It was while we were standing around the drinker, that Mims noticed that HE had appeared out of the sous sol, wearing his working overall and carrying a long sort of stick with a motor at one end and a cutter at the other. HE walked down the road that I mentioned previously and Mims set out to follow HIM to see what was up. When HE got to the bramble hedge between the field and the poplars, HE put the stick thing on the ground and kept pulling a string until the motor started. Mims stood about ten meters away and watched as HE started to cut down part of the hedge. This seemed to take an awful long while and Mims was losing interest when HE then walked over the bit of hedge HE had cut down and moved on making a path as HE went. HE left a helmet and visor thing on the ground when HE went and Mims went up and smelled it. Then, HE appeared back at the gap and as that appeared to be it and there were no treats around, Mims just turned tail and cantered away backup the hill to tell us what was gong on.
Over supper, HE told me HE had walked through the poplars right up to the stream at the bottom, to investigate how likely it was that we horses would be able to go and drink at the stream. Apparently it is so overgrown there that THEY will need to get someone with a tractor to clear the area before we will be able to go there. First THEY must get the stable finished, HE told me, then, if there is any money left THEY will get the ground cleared. Still, it as a bit of interest on an otherwise uneventful day (for us). He finished digging the kitchen garden area. Now HE has to get some compost and start planting it up.

web worksFriday 27th April 2007
Funny, but both Mims and I have taken a keen interest in gardening. Not doing it, you understand, but first watching HIM and then taking over when HE went away.
THEY had been out and bought some herbs to plant in the kitchen garden that he finally finished digging yesterday. HE had also noticed that there were a few plants that HE wanted to rescue in the previous owner’s bit of garden fenced off from our field. So after lunch, HE came out armed with spade and fork and started to dig up the rescues and move them out of our field. Then HE came back armed with some wire cutters and Mims and I watched as HE proceeded to detach the wire stock fencing from all the posts round the garden and then roll up and remove the fencing. Then HE went on to remove all the posts and take these out of the field as well..
Up to now, we had always leaned over the wire to get at what was fenced off from us. Now, with the fence gone, I have to admit we were very wary of going near the garden at first. It took HIM the trouble of tempting us with sweets and moving back onto the garden, little by little, to get us used to being there for the first time. Of course, once we had done it, we stayed there for the rest of the evening.
We had some strange weather today. It started off foggy and then, as the sun rose, it became very warm and humid. Really good weather for flies. Then, in the afternoon, it tuned quite cool, almost cold and the sky went black with thunder in the distance and suddenly a very strong wind came whistling through the trees. We just stood there with our manes flowing and scented where the wind had come from and what messages it brought. THEY came out and noticed that there were no flies about and so took our masks off. However, after our supper, the heat returned and HE had to put our masks back on, Mims in particular had streaming eyes which were covered with flies.
For the record, THEY took a bread maker back to the place THEY bought it as it stopped working after three loaves. THEY were all tensed up for a battle as they are still not able to express themselves in French but were delighted to find that the shop assistant just keyed some details into a computer and then went and brought a brand new one for them!

daisiesSaturday 28th April 2007
HE has done something very sensible at last. Yesterday I told you about how HE took down the fencing around the previous owners vegetable garden. While we were there, Mims started her usual trick of pawing the ground and I noticed that it was very soft and sandy. With a bit of working on overnight, we managed to make a pretty good sandpit between us and today we have alternated our head-dipping-in-water trick with some very good sandy rolls. Life is improving all the time.
HE finished HIS herb garden today, or, at least, HE planted up all the plans that HE both bought and rescued. There were some left over tiles in the sous sol (most houses here have tiles floors) and so HE has used these as stepping stones between the plants. HE has no idea if they are indoor or outdoor tiles so they may very well break up in the winter but, at least, they will do until the garden gets established. After HE finished planting HE gave the garden a good soaking with the hose and found several of the tiles disappeared in a sea of mud. When the day got cooler in the early evening, HE rescued and re-seated the tiles and gave the plants a mulch of compost. It is amazing how little ground a 70 litre bag of compost will cover and HE is looking forward to getting THEIR new car which has a towing ball at the back so that HE can go down to the deshetterie and get a load of commune compost for free.
THEY went out for a meal with Veronica (the agent – although now more of a friend) and Terry her husband. THEY went back to the place THEY went last Saturday as it is the last chance to go there before it closes down. It is a very nice place and the people there are very nice as well so THEY had a discussion about why it had to close down for financial reasons. What THEY did notice was that, although it was in a very nice little village it did not have the same population of artisans – plumbers, electricians, builders etc. who seem to keep all the other local restaurants and bars busy. It is maybe unusual to see a hotel in England whose main clientele at lunchtime are the local workmen. Here it is very normal and everyone seems to know everyone else and go around shaking hnds and wishing each other bonjour and bon appetite. This little restaurant probably does alright in the tourist season as it is in the heart of a walkers paradise but this is not enough to sustain it for the whole year. What is interesting is that it also provided the lunch meals for the local school which will now have to source from another supplier. What a shame!

fly whiskSunday 29th April 2007
We had rain today. It lasted about twenty seconds, I think, We were only aware of it because the lad from next door, Morgan, came to mow the grass today and there was a second or two when it was thought that the rain might make things too wet for mowing. Of course, it didn’t. There were a few possible errors in those last sentences. I nearly said to mow the lawn, which it isn’t. So I changed it to grass which it is only partly, as you can see from one of the photos on this month’s pages. Then the word mow was not one hundred percent accurate. First he strimmed parts of it. Then he used a small mower. And then finally, he used a sit on machine which did fine until it broke down which h assured us (we think – it was in French) wasn’t our fault. Still, although it was not finished, he did spend four hours working on it and also found time to come and give us some mints.
HE went and took down the original electric fence that was put up on our first days here when Mims took us to meet her boy friend. It was a very long line of posts and HE was moaning that it would take HIM several trips to bring them all back. Then SHE saved the day by getting the quad bike out and drove down to pick up the posts for HIM. That machine is starting to prove its worth to them now.
However, when it was tea time, we had had quite enough of the mower and quad noises and so we decided to go away right into the far field. This meant that HE had to come calling and looking for us. So, we did what we always do these days. We met HIM half way. As he approached the bend into the far field, Mims and I came trotting round the corner and we came up to HIM and followed HIM all the way back to our buckets. It was only then that HE realised that Wicky was not with us and HE had to stary out all over again. This time HE had to turn the corner to find Wick happily munching away at the grass. When HE called Wick did come to him and as they both turned to come back, Mims and I came galloping up to see where they had got to. It became quite a game and Mims did get a bit over excited and had some bucks and got quite heated up. So much so that she started to jump at every little bang and crash that came from the motor mower. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t Mims that broke it in the end!

Good Bye Cat FlapMonday 30th April 2007
Some time ago, when THEY were living in Devon, UK, the neighbour from across the road came and knocked on the door to ask if THEY had lost a kitten. When THEY said no, THEY didn’t have a kitten, the neighbour said that there was one sitting outside their house, crying all the time.
Once THEY knew that, THEY heard it too, particularly for the next two nights there was the sound of a cat wailing and wailing. That morning SHE went to see the neighbour to see what could be done about the cat but, when the front door was opened, the kitten just came strolling in. As THEY told it afterwards, it took a look around at the accommodation and the feeding arrangements and approved and so he said he was stopping. I think in reality, SHE probably gave it something to eat which, being starving, it wolfed down and then THEY were so taken by the funny looking thing that THEY just couldn’t put it out again.
It had a coat that looked as if its mother hadn’t finished knitting it before it was born. One front leg was tabby the other was white. It had enormous ears, enormous feet and a very, very long tail that arched over its back and touched its head. For a kitten, it was very big and this caused a bit of a mix up about it’s age later on. For quite a while before this, a strange alley cat had been coming in our cats; cat door and eating the food that was laid out on the floor for them. THEY would hear the noise of the cat door opening and, if THRY were quick, THEY would catch a glimpse of this intruder as he raced out of the cat door. He was a very big cat and, because of his colouring, THEY called him Stripey.  It wasn’t long before THEY made the connection between Stripey and this new large kitten and it was this that gave the kitten his name – Cat Flap, after the mode of entry of his probable father.
Cat Flap grew to be a very lovable, fun loving, adventurous, gentle giant and a wonderful addition to THEIR family. As you know, he disappeared on the first evening here in our new home. THEY put up notices all over the village but in THEIR hearts THEY have felt that THEY have seen the last of him. Unlike other members of the family, Dick, Harriet, Tregony and PC, there is no way of knowing if he is alive or dead and, if he is dead, the manner and date of his death. HE has chosen today, the end of THEIR first month here, to say good bye to Cat Flap.
It would be wonderful to think that he ended up on some French family’s doorstep and just sat and cried until they let him in and they are now feeding him enormous amounts of French food and enjoying him and loving him as much as we all did.